I rarely use it. In the past four years of working at the Tribune and having full medical benefits, I have used it exclusively to pay for my teeth cleanings. No visits to a physician for a sickness, injury or even just to make sure all my parts are in the right place. I haven’t even had my eyes checked, which I really should do to make sure my prescription is current.
With the recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court upholding the so-called “Obamacare” health insurance mandate, my coverage will finally pay off when it keeps me from paying this extra money — a “penalty” if you see it that way — for not having it. I guess I should just be grateful that I am a very healthy person and have never needed much in the way of medical care.
Many millions of people in America are not so fortunate and would love to have my burden of health insurance that I haven’t needed. Part of me often wants to donate it to someone who needs it more than I do. But the unfortunate reality is that many of these insurance-less folks simply can’t afford to be insured. When I think about it, I might be one of those folks if my workplace didn’t pay for a lot of the monthly premium.
This thought got me to thinking about this whole issue of requiring people to carry health insurance. Each month, I sit down and write a check (yes, I still write checks!) to AAA so I can have automobile insurance. Not because I enjoy forking out $160 every 30 days but because the state tells me I have to have it. Unlike my medical insurance, my car insurance actually has paid off. Four years ago I was in a crash that would have left me without a vehicle if I wasn’t insured. My monthly check netted me a free rental car for a while and then a check that I used to replace my wrecked vehicle. In the end, I was not out anything more than inconvenience because of my insurance.
If it had been legal for me to cancel my car insurance, I might have done it long ago to save money. For a long time it would have seemed logical since I hadn’t ever used it and I could spend the money some other way. Would I have been smart enough to save a little each month in the event of a car accident? Probably not. Would I have been sorry when I did have an accident? Absolutely.
When it comes to health insurance, many people are probably very sorry they didn’t make room for it in their budgets when the need arose. Some folks could afford insurance if they’d cut back on some frivolous spending they see as necessary. These folks get no sympathy from me. Then there are many people who work very hard but simply don’t have room in their budgets (or no jobs to pay) for health insurance no matter what they do. I do have sympathy for these folks and I pray that these health insurance exchanges written into the law make it so these people can find a way to comply with the law.
I have heard opponents of this mandate say that states can impose such requirements on citizens but the Constitution does not allow the federal government to do so. I am no expert, but I do know that when it came to my accident I didn’t care who forced me have car insurance; I was just glad it was there. That is a hollow argument anyway, because it is being used solely as a political attack strategy and avoids the issue of whether or not the requirement is a good idea.
A lot is likely to happen in Washington over this new law before the implementation date of 2014, including this week’s vote on repeal in Congress. But if it stands in its current form, I want to know a lot more about it before then. Judging by the size of the law, I better start reading now. And I know I can’t ask my representatives or even Supreme Court justices since they sure didn’t take the time to read it before passing it or passing judgment on it. Is there any insurance I can buy to protect myself from the actions of legislators and judges?
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to make an eye appointment. I hear the Affordable Care Act uses small print.
Nathan Orme is the editor of the Sparks Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.